CALGARY, AB — The Battle of the Prairies is returning to the Rough House on Sunday, Feb. 28th.
The matinee start (2 p.m. MT) is the first Sunday game being played at Scotiabank Saddledome since the 2010 season.
The visiting Saskatchewan Rush will be coming to Calgary only two days after hosting a tough Eastern challenger in the Buffalo Bandits.
Last weekend, the reigning NLL Champions beat the Rochester Knighthawks 11-8 at Sasktel Centre in a game where the Rush opened the floodgates early, taking a 7-1 lead in the first quarter.
A similar story happened in Vancouver.
The Roughnecks took a 12-5 lead early into the second half and looked to be cruising. However, unlike the Rush who held on to win, Calgary allowed the Stealth to rally and eventually win the game in overtime.
“Great first half, great start to the second half, and then obviously a collapse,” Curtis Dickson said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to play a full 60 minutes. You can’t let your foot off the gas pedal and let teams back in the games no matter how big your lead is. That’s something we’ve got to figure out.”
The Riggers will be looking to duplicate their fast start again this weekend, but with a much different ending.
That could be a tall task with a date against the leagues best defence and goaltender. On the year, the 4-2 Rush have allowed a league low 60 goals. A big reason for this is the continued success of goaltender Aaron Bold, who leads all net minders with a 9.85 goals against average.
Beating Bold is not an easy thing and it becomes even harder without star forward Dane Dobbie. The lefty has missed the past two games, both losses. However, the left side of the offence was much more involved and successful against the Stealth as rookie Reilly O’Connor has risen to the occasion.
The Whitby, ON, native had the best game of his career, recording six points (2G, 4A) and looking very confident carrying the ball and leading the offence.
The offence still runs through Dickson, though.
Against Vancouver, Dickson had five goals and an assist before the end of the first half. He was the target of continuous double-teams, and still managed to assist on three goals.
Disappointed with the loss, Dickson realizes that there is still plenty of time left in the season and that they can certainly get back to their winning ways.
But the Roughnecks aren’t happy with their current predicament.
“Obviously we know it’s a long season. We’ve got lots of time left here,” Dickson said. “At the same time, these are games we want to win that really matter at the end of the year. We can’t be happy. We’ve got to take what we did wrong from this game and get ready to move on and battle obviously a good Saskatchewan team next week.”
Calgary coach Curt Malawsky liked the attitude of his men after the game and wants to see how they respond this weekend against their biggest rivals.
“The positive thing to me when I walked in the room after the game is the guys were just pissed. You like to see that in the respect that they care,” Malawsky said. “They care so much. Sometimes you get a game like that and you care too much and you kind of get a bit distracted.”
Trying to avoid a third straight loss, the Roughnecks will need to find a way to make their first half performance repeatable.
To do that, they will need to find a way to get their home power play going. On three power plays — one was a total of 19 seconds after their own penalty had expired — the Riggers managed to score two goals.
At the Rough House, they have had trouble burying their chances with the extra man, but against a Saskatchewan unit that has killed only 46.4 percent of their penalties, Calgary will be able to utilize their special teams unit.
Another area for improvement is within the face-off circle. Of the usual suspects, Bob Snider is still on the IR, Curtis Manning will be back from his short-term holdout, and Garrett McIntosh is coming off of a 4-24 performance.
Trying to spice things up on the draw, Malawsky could utilize rookies Tyson Bell and Wesley Berg, who both had chances to show what they can do in the circle last Saturday. Bell was 1-2, while Berg was 3-5. Both represent intriguing options to take face-offs for the Roughnecks.
It was more than special teams and face-offs that led to the collapse in Vancouver, so the Roughnecks know they will need to refresh and get prepared for Sunday’s game.
“We’ll regroup and make some adjustments and be ready to go next week,” Malawsky said.